Art & Science…and Maths!
Collaboration between the arts and sciences has the potential to create new knowledge, ideas and processes beneficial to both fields. Artists and scientists approach creativity, exploration and research in different ways and from different perspectives; when working together they open up new ways of seeing, experiencing and interpreting the world around us. (source)
Possibly the most famous of all amalgamations of artistic and scientific knowledge is embodied in one man – Leonardo Da Vinci. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man encapsulates the Renaissance ideas of perfection of nature, humanity’s position at the centre of the great chain of being and mankind as the epicentre of knowledge. A mathematical understanding of shape, symmetry and proportion of the age is captured magnificently in art.
Featured article: Why the arts and science are better together
THE CONVERSATION The arts and science are often thought of as polar opposites. Traditionally, students and universities view them as separate entities – you pick a degree in one or the other and stick to your side of the fence.
Increasingly though, this way of doing things is not enough to prepare students for the data-drenched and volatile workplace of the twenty-first century.
Combining arts and science in the curriculum could be the answer. From science, students learn about sound methods for testing hypotheses, and about interpreting and drawing valid conclusions from data. From arts, they will also learn about developing arguments, and about understanding, moving, and changing the minds of diverse audiences.
There are double and combined degrees already on offer. But there is a great potential for them to be better – improving students’ employment prospects and fostering new skills in “the space between” speciality areas.
The untapped potential of combining curricula
In their study into the popularity of double degrees, higher education researchers Wendy Russell, Sara Dolnicar and Marina Ayoub suggested that double degree programs have significant untapped potential in preparing graduates for employment.
The potential benefit, they argue, is that graduates develop “transdisciplinary skills” that are highly valued by employers.
Transdisciplinary thinkers take a unique approach to solving problems. They draw information from diverse sources and seek collaborations to produce “socially robust knowledge”. However, the way most combined and double degrees are established does not foster transdisciplinary learning.
This is because the combination of degrees tends to create an administrative rather than pedagogical structure. This means that an arts-science student, for example, simply has access to subjects from arts and science faculties. Upon graduation, graduates would be able to perform skills essential to both speciality areas. But they have not necessarily developed transdisciplinary thinking.
The rare double degrees that are pedagogically designed can unlock the potential of a combined curriculum. In such cases, arts-science graduates can also imaginatively develop unique research methods, or ethically interpret information systems, or persuade non-experts to change their behaviour based on scientifically informed debate.
After all, while few would doubt the value of disciplined thinking, isn’t our goal also to prepare students for lifelong learning in an undisciplined world?
If you want to read more, check out theconversation.com to see the complete article ‘Why arts and science are better together’ from Benjamin Miller and Fiona White, and explore the prezi below from Johnathan Schmid to explore STEAM.
Seeing the world in all it’s dimensions…
In ‘How thinking in 3D can improve math and science skills‘, it’s easy to make connections between the Visual Art classroom and spacial awareness. Read Annie Murphy Paul’s article and see why all teachers should begin describing the world in 3D and explore the value of helping our children develop the habit of seeing the world in all its dimensions.
“Spatial thinkers are likely to be more interested in science and math, and are more likely to be good enough at STEM research to get advanced degrees.”
All of us, children included, live in a three-dimensional universe—but too often parents and teachers act as if the physical world is as flat as a worksheet or the page of a book. We call kids’ attention to numbers and letters, but we neglect to remark upon the spatial properties of the objects around us: how tall or short they are, how round or pointy, how close or far. Growing evidence suggests that a focus on these characteristics of the material world can help children hone their spatial thinking skills—and that such skills, in turn, support achievement in subjects like science and math.
In a study published this month in the journal Developmental Psychology, for example, scientists from the University of Chicago reported that young children who understand how shapes fit together are better able to use a number line and to solve computation problems. Researcher Elizabeth Gunderson and her coauthors asked students in first and second grade to select the single shape from among four choices that would correctly complete a square. The kids who spotted the right shape also showed the most growth in their number-line knowledge over the following school year, and scored highest on a measure of mathematics ability at age eight.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to see our left and right brain infographics..
Educators can see the benefits of STEAM. Wonder when the powers that be will too? We need more ‘Renaissance Men and Women’!
It’s really hard to use science, maths, art together in the current school system. I know we all see the value of going cross-curricular, but practicality wise, it’s tough. A total restructure would be needed in more schools, and I think that’s wishful thinking. Maybe we just need to make more explicit links to to other areas when we teach them ourselves. Art has a lot more maths and science in it than most people realise – maybe we just need to make a point of highlighting it when it happens.